The ArtExpo is the self-proclaimed world’s largest international gathering of trade buyers—including gallery owners and managers, art dealers, interior designers, architects, corporate art buyers, and art and framing retailers. But the aisles are full of art owners and admirers, and most artists are happy to discuss sales on the spot. As has been my custom, I wandered – looking for anything unusual in the way of medium or artist. The source of my joy in this experience is in talking to the creators and learning their stories. Nonetheless, given the size of the show, I failed to see more than half of the exhibitors so do not assume that this brief note has typified the art on display. There is intriguing work here to appeal to almost all tastes.
Again, as usual, the artists with whom I spoke were from many countries – Armenia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, New Zealand, Australia, China, Argentina and Canada; many languages can be heard. Each has their own story about how and why they do what they do and how and why they have appeared in New York now.
My first conversation was with Josy Britton of Grand Bend, Ontario. Britton works in water colors and encaustic paint. I had never heard of encaustic as a medium so I was intrigued. The encaustic process “paints” with hot (bees) wax mixed with pigments, applied while hot and bound with heat to its substrate. It is a process used by the early Egyptians but is uncommon today. Britton’s works are typically done on “board” over which she lays down a flat color as a background. She then incises the better part of a “cartoon” of the image she will create. The encaustic is then applied to the incised surface – from a heated metal “palette”. To achieve a softer looking surface for water, a clear coat of wax is laid down, and subjects below the water’s surface are slightly diffused into the clear wax layer with additional heat. It takes Britton many months to complete a large encaustic work so the pieces are few and rare.
Britton received a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Waterloo. She works freehand from photographs and sketches. Her paintings have hung in numerous juried and solo shows across Canada. Britton is an elected member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, the Ontario Society of Artists and is a Member and Past President of the Society of Canadian Artists. See josybritton.com for further information.
Phil Carriere is a self-taught photographer from Montreal who, judging by the images in the ArtExpo, likes the look of grit and texture – in stone and in life. (He does shoot other subjects.) He is also a self-taught graphic designer with training in cabinet making. He worked for over 18 years in the field of printing and woodworking, and his carpentry is part of his image mounting process. Carriere’s ArtExpo show includes images from Cuba and New York – images of industrial plants, aging buildings, and cramped streets – but the printing and mounting process gives them sheen and a soft, inner glow. Rather than try to capture a feeling in his work, he claims that his work is associated in his mind with music with a song or performer.
For the photographers among the readers, he shoots with a high resolution DSLR and prints his images in large sizes using translucent inks on a thin aluminum foil mounted behind a clear resin and mounts it all on a dyed maple base. They images shown are reminiscent of hand tinted postcards and Carriere takes great pains to get exactly the colors and tones that he wants. Carriere’s work in the print trade was in sales and print problem solving. Developing this proprietary printing process was not far removed from his prior work.
The prints contain a great amount of detail. The highly trafficked areas where he may shoot often require multiple exposures to arrive, through digital processing, at a single image with only the people, persons or empty expanses that he wants. (A Single image may result from combining more than a dozen exposures.) Carriere also occasionally uses focus stacking, a relatively new technique enabled by digital processing, to produce an unlimited depth of field. Multiple exposures, each with a different focal plane, are combined to use only the sharp areas of each to make an image that could not be captured in a single exposure by any real lens. The mind usually knows it is seeing something striking and “different” – but few can discern why.) See Philcarriere.CA for further information.
I chatted at some length with Nicholas Zalevsky (painter) and, for additional language help, with his brother Vladislav (engineer). Zalevsky was classically trained at the Ukrainian Republican School of the Arts, Kyiv, Ukraine. He was not offered admission to a Soviet Art Academy because of his disfavored ethnic background; (nothing nu there). Nonetheless there was apparently an effort to recruit him by the KGB as an informant in the art world – an opportunity he declined. After spending some years in the Ukraine as an illustrator he followed Vladislav to the US.
His work reminds me in places of Magritte, or Dali, but is uniquely his own – and reflects a dry wit (which apparently runs in the family), and a seemingly typical ex-soviet cynicism. He describes his paintings as metaphorical art and disavows surrealism (which I was otherwise inclined to use in this context.) The works include marvelous and intriguing bits of flotsam that provoke thought and efforts at divination. He works and reworks his paintings; the image next to him in the photo took 12 revisions and 6 years before he was satisfied. For frustratingly brief and obtuse additional information, see nick-zalevsky.com.
I had a brief conversation with Victoria Gu, a 27 year old, well traveled photographer (who was born in China, moved to New Zealand as a child, and then to London, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York). While studying business strategy at Columbia University, Gu manages to wander some of America’s back roads finding and photographing decaying architectural treasures. She admits to having no hesitation in spontaneously invading these spaces without formalities to capture bits of their souls. (She also does landscapes and street scenes which are not exhibited at the ArtExpo.) For more information, see victoriagu.com.
I spoke, albeit haltingly, with Ibrohim Bek from Uzbekistan. Bek produces what I would term Persian miniatures – on aged papyrus, with images based in part on ancient models and in part on his imagination. I have seen many an original Persian miniature and Bek’s work is convincing in the feel and the glow of the colors, if somewhat less fine in execution. Unfortunately I can find nothing about Bek on-line but did get an email address if any reader wants to request more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Entirely coincidentally I stumbled on a second graduate of the Ukrainian Republic School, Armine Bozhko, part Armenian and part Ukranian. Bozhko paints in a style that could not be more removed from that of Zelevsky, her schoolmate from a prior generation. She was showing brightly colored, impressionistic city-scapes sandwiched between brilliant, monochromatic skies and seas. Bozhko has also lived or traveled in Poland and Czechoslovakia and speaks English, Russian, Armenian, Czech, some French, some German – and is married to a Scandinavian she met in Prague, who stumbles a bit in Spanish. (She is raising two young sons who must be linguistically challenged to keep each language separate.) She maintains a studio in Long Island where she and her family also reside. For more information see armineart.com.
There’s a broad variety of works at show. A few examples here:
The (41stAnnual) ArtExpo will be open through Sunday, April 7; the venue has been moved (due to a recent fire) a few piers south to Pier 90 at 50thstreet and 12thAvenue. Ticketing and other event details can be found here.
All photos by Fred R. Cohen. See more of his work on his website.